Soloing the CDT

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Scribe, Jul 7, 2021.

  1. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    A Semi-Epic Journey in Three Parts.


    [​IMG]



    Prologue

    About three years ago, I set the somewhat-random goal of riding the Continental Divide Trail, south to north. Though I can’t recall the exact reason for choosing the CDT, I’m pretty sure that inmate bwanajames’ inspirational “Mexico to Canada on Dirt” ride report had something to do with it. His style was relaxed and approachable, humble guy on a big bike. No hero shit. My hero days, such as they were, are past. My racing resume includes finishing a couple enduros at the back of the old-and-slow class after DNF’ing in a handful of others, and being beaten by a grandma in the only trials event I ever entered. In my defense, grandpa was coaching her on line choice.

    Of course there have been many other great CDT riders and reports, but to my mind the well-spring of CDT knowledge has to be Cannonshot’s “A CannonRide Down the Great Divide,” from 2010. It is so packed with details, tracks, history and info that I’m surprised he isn’t still on the trail trying to finish it. I used his tracks and, with a few exceptions here and there, the info is still spot on. You try riding all those miles and documenting it thoroughly. No small task. I have a new appreciation for your contributions, Mr. Cannonshot. Many thanks.

    Last year’s CDT attempt was shelved due to some disease you’ve probably heard about. The year before … I honestly can’t remember. But I do recall that one year’s hiatus involved record snowpack in the Rockies, double or triple the usual amount.

    Here’s the snag about the CDT: You have to avoid BOTH the monsoon season in New Mexico AND the snows at higher elevations in Colorado and points north. If it rains on you in the remote regions of New Mexico, you might as well pitch a tent because you aren’t getting through. Locals will warn you of this in very stern tones. Signs will warn you of this in very stern wording. Bike-swallowing ruts etched into bone-dry roads will warn you of this even in the dry season.

    Stock image for dramatic effect:
    offroad-3747184_1280.jpg


    Monsoon season kicks off mid June and runs until September. My strategy was to leave as close as possible to the beginning of monsoon season, avoiding the rain but giving the snow in Colorado a chance to melt. Spoiler alert: It worked. I got lucky.
    thumb-422147_1920.jpg


    My wife was supposed to join me on the trip, but she had a little low-side incident on one of our practice runs a few weeks before launch that sidelined her. I’d recently left a cushy state gig with the loose idea of freelancing from here on out to make this trip, so I had to push on solo. I was a little nervous about it, certain I’d be mauled by a bear (it happens on the CDT) or overshoot a corner and sail off into oblivion, but when the doubt crept in I’d remind myself of a simple truth: You’re going to die. With luck not on this trip, but death is our collective destiny. I’d like to think that when Atropos cuts my string, I will have at least made an effort to do less office sitting.

    You, dear reader, are going to die too. Take courage from that cheerful thought!
    #1
    joenuclear, Tadpole, waybill and 18 others like this.
  2. TangoYankee

    TangoYankee Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    31
    Amen to that
    #2
  3. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Route
    [​IMG]
    It’s about 1,400 miles from Fayetteville, AR to Antelope Wells, NM. From there it’s right at 2,800 miles to the border along the CDT, then another 1,850 of slab back home. Originally the plan was load two bikes into a rented truck and stage in Deming, NM, as my wife was riding a Suzuki Van Van, top speed maybe 60 with a tail wind. We’d get back from the Canadian border in an as-yet-undetermined fashion. I’m not a planner.


    Her absence meant I could bomb southwest on my Yamaha T7 at a more slab appropriate 75-80 mph, do the trail, and get back in an as-yet-undetermined manner. In the end I rode the whole triangle, 6,022 miles total. The T7 handled it all brilliantly, except some really tough sections of trail and endless miles of slab. Though it’s a perfectly capable highway bike, the stock windscreen is ear-shattering at those speeds. Even wearing earplugs I was worried about aggravating my already bad case of tinnitus. Get a bigger windscreen if you want to tour on a T7. And maybe a throttle lock.


    Packing
    I try to pack light, I really do. Dudes like Joe Motocross put me to shame, but he puts everyone to shame. I packed lighter than almost every motorcyclist I came across, but honestly that wasn’t many. The ratio of bicyclists to motorcyclists on the CDT is easily 10-1, and those folks are the real badasses. More on them later.


    The scales don’t lie. My beloved Andy Strapz were stuffed to capacity, as was my trusty Sealine 40-liter kayak bag.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Some of the crap I had in them, including a chair and a pillow. Forgive me ADV-Fers, for I have sinned. And at the end of a long day, sipping a cold beer from my adventure thermos (wtf?), I relished my wicked ways, for they were delicious. And comforting. Perhaps the Roost Lord pardons those on the CDT. I certainly hope so.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    (yeah, I'm the guy who cuts his toothbrush in half but still packs a chair.)
    20210603_110923.jpg
    #3
  4. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,153
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    In for your ride!
    #4
  5. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,887
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Dammit @Scribe. This post echoes so many thoughts rolling about in my overstuffed bean the last 6 months...even longer. I don't know you in the least, but I'm effin' proud of you man - if that's not too bold a thing to say in an internet forum. What a sincere, incredible way to start a trip report.

    It's not even ironic, but I had a goal of riding the CDT this coming August as that's the month I celebrate the first half-century of life pinnacle. My next half-century was thrown completely sideways earlier this year and now the envisioned future is fairly hazy.

    I will be following along with great interest and hope for an amazing journey that enriches your life.
    #5
    Dirt2007 likes this.
  6. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Thanks man! Let me cheer you up a bit: you’re better off not doing this ride in August anyway. You don’t want to eff around with monsoon season, the south is blazing hot and the mountains are crawling with tourists. I think September is a much safer bet.
    #6
    liv2day likes this.
  7. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Staging

    Packed and ready to go. I really wanted to purchase some new luggage for this trip, but that global disease you've probably heard about really screwed with the moto accessory market. In the end I modded the trusty Andy Strapz and slung them over the seat sans rack. It was not ideal, but it worked. And BTW, I don't know if Andys are still available but if so, buy some now. The canvas material they are made of is out of fashion these days, but they are tough, repairable and highly water resistant with a spritz of Scotchguard. Light too. Damn good bags, though they work better with racks.
    [​IMG]



    Official launch photo, 8 am ish June 6, 2021 from Fayetteville.
    [​IMG]


    What you can't see under all that gear is the raging doubt about this whole endeavor. I mean, who does this sort of thing? And why? Wouldn't it be easier, and safer to just hop on a plane? Deep breaths, and repeat after me: "You are going to die." There, that's better!


    First stop was DFW to see a buddy and drink a few hundred beers. I set Google to "avoid highways" and did as I was told. Turned out to be a decent route, at least in comparison to the death march that is Interstate 40 and the shit tangle of freeway nonsense anywhere near the DFW area. It took an extra two hours, but I have time. At least I think I do ...

    Saw this on the way out. I like a spit-roasted infant as much as the next guy, but I'd just eaten breakfast.
    [​IMG]

    I stayed with Brian for a couple days. Not much to report. We spent way too much time at his fave Fort Worth dive bar, where I came to the stunning realization that I really don't like hanging out in bars anymore.
    [​IMG]

    With apologies to bar people -- used to be one -- it's boring, just a lot of talk about this or that thing someone used to do back then, cheap beer, pool and fried food. Get a hangover and repeat. On the morrow I'd have to gut through whole mess of Texas -- nobody's idea of a great riding state -- so drinking wasn't on the agenda. What's worse than riding an adventure bike in west Texas? Riding an adventure bike in west Texas with a hangover. It's about 900 miles from Brian's house to El Paso. Good lord.

    I hit on the strategy of stopping at roadside parks or tables about every 100 miles or so. This served me well throughout the entire trip. In the heat of the day when I'd get sick of the wind noise and sleepy from the heat, I'd find a little city park or picnic table and take a power nap. It's really amazing how invigorating a 15-minute nap can be.

    This sort of traveling feels more relaxed and refined. I could grind out miles on the interstate cursing in my helmet and hating all the RV-driving dickheads, or bimble along on the backroads taking my time and actually kind of enjoying the pre-trip. It's all about attitude, and mine needed some serious adjustment that small Texas roads graciously provided.

    Of course this being Texas, people have to shoot things. Guess I'll never know how far Mushaway Peak was.
    [​IMG]





    #7
    lgb, edgeoftheworld, Critic and 8 others like this.
  8. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,887
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Have wanted to ask @Scribe, given your handle here and how well you've crafted this story thus far...do you write for a living? Wonderful wit and your written observations are outstanding.

    Had a hard laugh at the spit roasted infant and commentary about bar life is spot on. And can't imagine riding 900 miles across TX in the summer heat. Great idea to stop and take in the sights and some shuteye to break up the slog.

    Look forward to what comes next amigo.
    #8
    Vark likes this.
  9. adventurebound9517

    adventurebound9517 Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,128
    Location:
    Lake Havasu City, AZ.
    Good job but I will let him tell you.
    #9
  10. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    I've got to get this thing going again. Was in DC enjoying the incredible heat, humidity and mostly closed attractions. No Smithsonsian Air and Space Museum for me. Got into the museum of natural history though, where I met an old relative. I can see the family resemblance.
    20210710_140834.jpg
    #10
  11. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    I took 180 through Texas as an alternative to I-20 and it proved to be a pretty nice ride, though there is a whole lot of nothing out in west Texas. Nothing, and oil-rig equipment, more nothing, white pickup trucks driving 90, etc. That was basically the scene until Carlsbad, where things got a little more interesting. The Guadalupe Mountains and Lincoln National Forest both looked like areas worth exploring. Fun trivia tidbit I learned in DC: The real Smokey the Bear was a cub rescued from a fire in the Lincoln National Forest. At the height of his popularity, Smokey got so much fan mail that the post office issued him his own zip code. Only Smokey and president have their own zip codes.

    I've never been through El Paso before and found it kind of an interesting city. I took the bypass through the mountains then back into New Mexico, where I found a lot more nothing and some scorching temps.
    20210609_160306.jpg

    I was aiming for Columbus, New Mexico, home of the Pancho Villa State Park, the only state park in the country named for a person who led an armed invasion of the U.S. General "Black Jack" Pershing assembled his expeditionary force in Columbus to chase Pancho Villa down. Ten thousand U.S. troops spent 11 months on the hunt, but ultimately failed. Columbus is also supposedly the home of the country's first established military air base, part of the effort to track down Villa.

    The state park is beautiful, but the temp was not particularly camping friendly so I stayed at the Los Milagros Hotel. Can't recommend the place enough. Recently renovated, comfortable, reasonably priced and the owner is a super nice guy. He fed me burritos, gave me beer and took me on a tour of the state park.

    Meet Phil, owner of Los Milagros.
    [​IMG]

    When I called from El Paso to get a reservation, he answered phone with "hotel."
    "Is this the Los Milagros?," I asked, wondering if I'd called the wrong number.
    "Yep," he said. "The pearl of the southwest, as long as you don't know that much about pearls."
    I liked Phil immediately.

    When in Columbus, stay at the Los Milagros.
    [​IMG]


    Columbus is about 90 miles from Antelope Wells, the starting point of this ride. I was pretty excited that night.
    #11
  12. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    7,513
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    Great story----Poncho Villa State Park is me and my wife's favorite campground in all the world.
    Were always there in the winter tho.
    If you want to do something very special on your way to antelope wells.
    There is a monument down a dead end dirt road proclaiming to be the start of the CDR "HIKING" trail.
    It was spectacular----I've never heard of anyone riding to it but we did.
    You will be right on the Mexican border----------no legal crossing here.
    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]



    Roads were fun and easy.
    [​IMG]


    Here is the track to it-------DO NOT get off it------many ways to go wrong and get on private property-----------or end up in Mexico illegally.
    Following this track you'll be reminded by several signs that this is a public right of way. It won't take you that long and will be delighted of the nice ride.
    Do it as an out and back-------and don't wander around.
    The track is on BLM land--------signs out there say so.

    Attached Files:

    #12
  13. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    7,513
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    Red line is the CDR
    Yellow is the little dirt road to the monument.


    Monument.JPG
    #13
  14. mpusms

    mpusms Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Saint Simons Island GA
    I’ve always wondered about moto access to that monument. Thx for info.
    #14
  15. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Good info Big Dog. Is that Crazy Cook monument? A hiker told me that's where he started. I had no idea what he was talking about.
    #15
  16. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Thank you, glad you are enjoying it. I was a newspaper journalist about 153 years ago. I'm now a semi-retired science writer.
    #16
    liv2day likes this.
  17. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Oddometer:
    13,883
    Location:
    In my natural state
    Part Two: The Actual Ride (F$!*ing finally!)

    There is nothing and nobody in Antelope Wells. Even the port of entry is (was?) closed. I passed a couple Border Patrol agents along the way who did not even seem curious about a solo moto heading to the closed border. My guess is they see a lot of crazies taking selfies and acting excited down there. I have to admit that after three years of planning and wondering exactly what it would be like to be at this very spot, I was pretty pumped to be here.

    [​IMG]

    My excited face. I also had to pee.
    [​IMG]

    Nothing but north from here.
    [​IMG]


    Hachita is the first "town" you come across headed north. It's famous for its derelict church and lack of gas, though when I rode through the station actually had gas. That's kind of a big deal as it meant I would not have to detour east on I-10 to fill up.

    [​IMG]

    Hachita is also known for its rest stop.
    [​IMG]

    Two miles north of Hachita on 146, I came across three teenagers, two girls and a boy, walking south on the side of the road. They were clearly immigrants, and just as clearly not prepared for the heat and distances in this area. I pulled over to ask them if they were OK. They had half a liter of water between the three of them and the temps were already in the 90s. My Spanish is muy basico, but I did determine that they started hiking from I-10 and were going to Hachita for some reason. I didn't ask, because I was stunned that they'd already walked 18 miles south, back toward the border. They asked if I could call them an Uber. I explained as best I could that there is no Uber out here, there wasn't even any cell service, but they were almost to Hachita. Only two more miles to go. They were crushed.

    I gave them water and wished them well. Later, when I relayed the story to a CDT bicyclist, he told me that it's pretty common to see immigrants in that area. He also said it's a federal offense to give them any aid at all. Even providing water is against the law. I have never been happier to break a law in my life. I don't care what your politics are, it is immoral to see someone in need of help and not offer it if you can. Those kids were in way over their heads. Had someone lied to them and told them head south, not caring if they lived or died? Or that they'd be fine because you can call an Uber anywhere in the U.S.? The encounter really bothered me. I thought, and still think, I should have done more to help them. Should I have called the Border Patrol and let them know where they were? They'd be in custody and, I assume, deported, but at least they'd be alive. Should I have given them rides to Hatchita one by one?

    I hope they made it wherever they were going.
    #17
  18. adventurebound9517

    adventurebound9517 Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,128
    Location:
    Lake Havasu City, AZ.
    I'm with you on this point. Thanks for being a good citizen. :clap
    #18
    Old Codger and Scribe like this.
  19. Vark

    Vark Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    1,221
    Location:
    DC Metro
    Give water. Call Border Patrol. They are probably a lot better off with some help from authorities than on their own like that vulnerable in extreme heat.

    Neat trip. Most of the cyclists start at the north end and head south. So you will cross paths with lots of them in the direction you're heading. I will take the moto for the TAT, but I hope to ride the CDT on a bicycle someday.
    #19
    Scribe likes this.
  20. GringoRider

    GringoRider Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2021
    Oddometer:
    17
    Location:
    Ensenada, BC
    Google says that crossing is open 10-4 daily.

    You did the right thing by giving them water. They'll make it to Hachita and be taken care of there. Probably have family but the Mexicans won't let them die, unlike some others. The last thing they need is the incompetence of the US federal government in their lives. You did fine they'll be fine they're just a little hot.
    #20